How to Fix Your Nail Cuticle

by Lisa Green ; Updated September 28, 2017

Be careful not to damage the delicate rim of skin at the base of the nail.

Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

Otherwise well-groomed nails can be let down by ragged and unruly cuticles. Lack of moisture causing cuticles to crack and peel away from the nail bed is a common culprit. Biting or picking at your nails can further damage cuticles, leaving the skin around your nails at risk of bacterial or fungal infections. Since healthy cuticles perform the valuable function of keeping potentially harmful infections out of your nails, they should be treated with great care.

Items you will need

  • Hand cream or moisturizer formulated for nails
  • Cotton gloves
  • Bowl of warm water
  • Topical cuticle remover product
  • Orange stick
  • Cuticle cream with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs)

Fix Dry, Peeling Nails

Step 1

Massage your nails and cuticles with a moisturizer twice a day, as part of your regular beauty routine. Use a hand cream or an over-the-counter moisturizer formulated especially for nails.

Step 2

Reapply moisturizer after washing your hands or getting your hands wet.

Step 3

Use gloves when handling chemicals -- such as household detergents -- that may having a drying effect on your nails.

Step 4

Use acetone-based nail polish remover no more than once a week, or switch to an acetone-free product.

Step 5

Apply moisturizer to the nail bed, cuticles and surrounding skin of each nail at bedtime. Cover your hands with cotton gloves to enhance the hydrating effects of the moisturizer overnight.

Fix Ripped or Untidy Cuticles

Step 1

Soak your clean fingertips in a bowl of warm water for up to three minutes.

Step 2

Massage an over-the-counter cuticle remover product into the cuticles, as per the manufacturer's instructions.

Step 3

Gently push back the moist translucent cuticle skin of each nail using an orange stick, being careful not to apply excessive pressure that could damage the nail bed.

Step 4

Move the orange stick in small circles at the base of each nail to remove any remaining translucent cuticle skin.

Step 5

Massage a cuticle cream containing alpha-hydroxy acids into the base of each nail to moisturize and smooth the surface.


  • Get into the habit of moisturizing your nails when you are doing a passive activity such as reading or watching television.

    Be aware that soaking your fingertips, especially for longer than three minutes, may cause them to swell temporarily. Wait for the nails to return to their original shape before applying nail polish to avoid chipping, peeling or cracking.


  • Don't bite or pick at your cuticles or attempt to trim them. This can result in cuts or tears that allow harmful bacteria or fungi to enter and cause an infection.

    Always moisten cuticles before pushing them back. This makes the job easier and is less likely to result in damaged cuticles.

    Consult a doctor or dermatologist if you notice changes such as redness, swelling and pain around your nails. This may be a sign of infection that requires professional diagnosis and treatment.

Photo Credits

  • Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

About the Author

Based in London, Lisa Green has been writing entertainment and women’s lifestyle articles since 2004. She has contributed to the MyVillage and Glam networks and is the former editor of Entertainmentwise. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from De Montfort University and a City & Guilds journalism certificate from the City of Bristol College.